TOKYO Asian stocks sagged on Wednesday as a slip in crude oil prices dampened investors' appetite for riskier assets, while the recently bullish dollar stalled against the euro and yen following a mixed bag of U.S. economic data.
Investors were also cautious ahead of official and private surveys on China's manufacturing activity which are expected to throw more cold water on hopes that the world's second-largest economy is picking up. ECONCN
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 0.3 percent.
Japan's Nikkei .N225 lost 0.8 percent as the yen firmed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to announce later on Wednesday that he will delay a scheduled sales tax hike by two-and-a-half years to avoid a further shock to the sputtering economy, but the move has been widely expected and is adding to doubts about his reflationary policies and commitment to cutting the country's massive public debt.
Australian stocks fell 1 percent and South Korea's Kospi .KS11 dropped 0.3 percent as April export and import data came in weaker than expected.
Crude oil prices pulled back from eight-month highs, reached last week amid expectations that a global glut was easing and fell overnight to profit taking. U.S. crude was last down 0.4 percent at $48.92 a barrel CLc1. [O/R]
The fall in oil prices was exacerbated after UAE Oil Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui said overnight he was happy with the oil market, noting that prices had been correcting higher.
The UAE oil minister's comments touched a nerve in a market wary that an OPEC meeting on Thursday may not pave the way for a production freeze.
"The political will of the OPEC countries to enact a production freeze is clearly waning. A production freeze is unlikely to come up as an agenda at the June meeting," wrote Yoshimasa Maruyama, chief market economist at SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.
"A sense of crisis among the oil producing countries appears to have receded following the recent spike in crude oil prices."
In currencies, the dollar traded at 110.650 yen JPY=, having come off a one-month high of 111.455 struck Monday after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's comments enhanced expectations for a near-term U.S. rate hike.
The euro was at $1.1134 EUR=, putting further distance between a 2-1/2-month low of $1.1097 touched on Monday.
U.S. data overnight saw personal income-related and housing indicators come in strong, while the Chicago manufacturing PMI and consumer confidence data proved disappointing. ECONUS
The Australian dollar was steady at $0.7236 AUD=D4 after gaining 0.7 percent overnight on upbeat local data, pulling away from a three-month low of $0.7145 touched last week.
Sterling was on the defensive, last trading little changed at $1.4477 GBP=D4 after dropping more than one percent on Tuesday after polls showing those who support "Brexit" may be increasing.
(Editing by Kim Coghill)
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